There’s nothing like a bowl of my mother’s homemade Italian soup to warm you up from the inside out on a cold April day. Yes, you read that right. It’s April and it has been snowing for days (at least it seems that way). Why oh why are you torturing us Mother Nature? I want to get outside and get my hands in the dirt and just bask in the glow of the spring sun.
But, alas, it the ground is covered in white and a bowl of soup sounds like a great idea.
Back in my pickiest eating days, I would only tolerate specific soups. Chicken noodle soup from a can or box (I went back in forth between which one I liked) and my mom’s homemade Italian soup. That was it.
It’s a simple soup. Similar to chicken noodle but with a few adjustments. The biggest being the noodle itself. This soup uses acini di pepe, or as my sister and I called them, ball noodles. In fact, we would refer to it as a “ball soup”. The other big difference is the reason this picky eater would ask for seconds of this delicious soup: it was pureed.
You take your chicken and your vegetables, your water and tomato paste and cook it for a few hours. You then take out the chicken and puree the broth and vegetables. The end result is a thick broth with bits of chicken (or not, sometimes my mom would make it without the chicken and it wasn’t missed) and balls of ancini di pepe. The broth is not quite tomato soup thick, but it’s thicker than chicken noodle soup.
And it’s delicious.
If any food can bring me back to my childhood, it’s my mom’s homemade Italian soup.
My mom was the one who came up with the idea to puree the soup. She also grew up on this stuff. However my Nona served it chunky style. Knowing her youngest daughter wouldn’t tolerate the chunks, she hid it in the broth.
It was my favourite soup and still is.
The best way to eat it was with Cornetti, an Italian bread that you could stuff your soup into.
We would get it fresh at a local bakery that makes a famous pizza (a pizza I hated as a child because it lacked pepperoni and cheese). It was always made fresh that day and so soft. We would rip out the inside and use that to dip and then stuff the soup into the “horn”.
I was devastated the first time I fed a bowl of homemade Italian soup to my daughter.
She turned her nose up and pushed it away in protest. Her lips wouldn’t budge no matter how I tried to get just a taste in her mouth. I tried the airplane, the choo choo train. You know those silly things you do to try and get those lips to part.
Defeated, I handed her a premade pouch while I slurped up my soup.
A few days later a friend mentioned how her son would eat soup over crackers. I had tried adding bread to make it easier for toddler hands to manage but had not tried crackers.
So the next day for lunch I grabbed a container of soup from the freezer, smashed up some crackers and waited impatiently as Emelia inspected her bowl.
After careful consideration, she dipped her finger in the bowl and brought it to her mouth.
Then, to my delight, she grabbed her spoon and shoveled some more into her mouth. And then she did it again, and again, and again.
She likes it, she really likes it.
This is a big win for me, because my husband isn’t particularly fond of this soup. He prefers his tomato soup. At least I have switched him from his childhood-favourite canned variety to an organic boxed one. That’s also a win. Though I should tackle the homemade variety. A friend and I once made a batch of homemade tomato soup from garden tomatoes. It was amazing and tasted just like the aforementioned childhood favourite. (Note to self: make a batch this summer)
Now I have someone to share a bowl of this childhood favourite with.
I’m sure this whole rejecting the soup scenario could have been avoided had I been able to serve it with cornetti. I mean, who would turn down soup-filled bread? Not my carb-loving toddler.
Homemade Italian Soup
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- chicken (this is open to what you have on hand, you can use the carcass or a roasted turkey, you can use a raw carcass, you can use chicken breasts or legs or thighs)
- 8 C chicken stock
- 1 C ancini di pepe
Toss all ingredients but the pasta into a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and cook for several hours over medium heat.
Remove chicken and shred, removing any bones.
While chicken is separated, puree vegetables and stock until every last little chunk has disappeared.
Return pot to stove, add pasta and cook until done.
Top with Parmesan cheese and pepper and serve with bread or crackers or whatever it is you like to enjoy beside a bowl of piping hot soup.
Note: This soup can also be made with tomatoes, fresh or canned. If my mom has them she tosses them in. There is no real recipe for this soup. It’s just some veggies tossed in a pot to simmer. The soup is also delicious without chicken.